How to Hunt for Scholarships

As college application season kicks into full swing, many students and their families are still trying to find the answer to the question “How are we going to pay for college?” While looking at a college’s website can get you started, there are additional ways for students to find aid, sometimes right under your nose. When applying to colleges, students should first review the financial aid pages of their colleges’ websites to find any additional scholarship applications and to see if they qualify. But it is also a good idea to contact the department for your major to determine if there are any scholarships for students in your particular field. Students should also look for scholarships in their high school guidance counselor’s office. Generally, local business and non-profit organizations may give out small scholarships to students in their area and most guidance counselors keep a list. Since fewer students apply for these than they do for national scholarships, the competition level is greatly reduced. If you want to find out about local scholarships, ask around! Beyond checking with your guidance counselor, ask your local librarian, or any groups or businesses you frequent. Also check with any clubs, jobs and volunteer or civil organizations you or your parents are a part of. Of course, the internet is always a great place to find nationally known scholarships. There are many free scholarship search sites out there, and usually a standard search engine can pull up good results. Since national scholarships are competitive, try to find the ones that match your qualifications the best. Manage your results by searching for qualifiers that narrow the applicant field, such as for those of a particular race, gender, religion, special talent, etc. You also want to play to your strengths; for example, if you are a great essay writer, look for ones that require a writing sample. Remember, the best way to receive money for college is by meeting your college’s merit aid requirements, which usually means strong test scores and GPA. As a senior, you may not be able to increase your GPA by much at this point, but you might be able to increase your test scores. If the college’s application deadline has already passed, CAA Coaches advise students to find out if they will accept higher scores for merit aid consideration. If they do, spend some quality time with a good test-prep program and retest! CAA advises that you apply if you qualify. Many students avoid applying for small scholarships, but even these can reduce your out-of-pocket costs. And don’t wait! Many scholarship deadlines land during the fall semester, so it is important to get started now. It is a lot of work, but if you can dedicate your time wisely, the potential pay-off can be a great relief to your finances!